In the mid-2000s, a few of Chap Nelson’s chain saw-carving buddies got in the habit of dropping by his place near Gray this time of year to hang out, carve and show their stuff.
By 2007, eight or 10 carvers were coming plus the weekend had turned into a Nelson family picnic and celebration.
It was in 2007 that Chap’s brother, Stelling Nelson, put out a couple of buckets for change for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. His son, Luke, is a cystic fibrosis patient. It was no big deal.
Except it was a big deal. People gave $1,200.
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Since then, carvers, visitors and donations have only become a bigger and bigger deal.
“This is now the largest chain saw carving event in North America,” Stelling Nelson said. “Over 70 carvers are coming for fun and fellowship and the whole community gets to enjoy it — and we get to raise money to help find a cure for cystic fibrosis. Last year, we had 4,000 people attend and raised $92,000. It was $62,000 from the auction and donations and $30,000 from sponsors. We’ve raised $167,000 since we started.”
Stelling Nelson said the Chaptacular Chainsaw Carving Bash is still free and 100 percent of money raised goes to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Sponsors write checks straight to the foundation. The foundation provides auction software. Bucket money goes there, too.
The biggest chunk comes from the auction. Carvers donate pieces and are often the high bidder on other carvers’ work. Stelling Nelson said carvers come from as far as Oklahoma, Vermont and farther: One father-son team comes from England and a famous Japanese chain saw carver who can’t come is sending work to auction.
The Nelsons said his delicate chainsaw artistry is a hot item.
What’s the most common chain-sawed subject? Bears. Stelling Nelson said definitely bears.
The most unusual he’s seen? He said amid presidential election frenzy one carver created remarkable likenesses of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton “as big-headed bobble heads.”
Chaptacular is five miles northeast of Gray. The Nelsons said with entertaining demonstrations it’s more than a craft fair. They said there are food trucks with great eats and just as important: nice bathrooms.
“We make it nice and fun and not all about money,” Stelling Nelson said. “Carvers sell items, sure, and we hope people bid and donate generously, but it’s more about the spirit of the thing. The way it’s grown proves how generous people can be for a good cause. Once we find a cure it will change the world. It will definitely change Luke and other sufferer’s worlds.”
Contact Michael W. Pannell at email@example.com.
Chaptacular Chainsaw Carving Bash
Where: 541 Hungerford Road., Gray
When: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Nov. 10-11; auction 3 p.m. Nov. 11
Information: 478-986-7484, www.chaptacular.org